At the Prado, Age Eighteen

Saturday, January 15, 2022

[Las Meninas, Velázquez, 1656]

When I finally got there let’s say it didn’t matter
that on the way over as I was crossing the street

a woman offered me flowers, and I didn’t buy,
and she hit me with them, shouting, and the light
changed and I fled; didn’t matter whether Madrid 

felt cold and severe and rainy
or cold and magnificent and rainy;
made no difference, even, that on New Year’s Eve

I lost track of my friends
and wandered rain-slicked streets alone
because I was uninterested in a stranger’s 

hands on me—call me a prude, whatever,
that’s how I felt that night—let’s say
when I finally got there, the only thing that mattered

was Velázquez peering out from behind the easel
in the background, showing me light and breath
and cruelty, the Infanta a skinny little kid strapped 

into her dress like the tent-pole in a circus tent, and
beside her, bristling, alive, two girls, unusually small,
often called dwarves. One looked out with the fierce 

elegant face of a person who sees
everything, surrounded by people
who don’t notice much, who move 

destroyingly through their little world. 
There is still the interior life, Maria Bárbola said to me
in the echoing gallery, and there was white 

light all over her immaculate dress.

Saturday, January 15, 2022